Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat win top honours at New York Indian Film Festival

New York: Actors Shefali Shah, Jaideep Ahlawat and director Avinash Arun Dhaware won the top honours at the 2023 New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) that showcased and celebrated new Indian cinema among the diaspora and global audience here.

The gala ran from May 11-14 here and this year’s festival line-up featured 35 films that showcased the depth and range of contemporary Indian cinema, including dramas, documentaries, and short films.

The festival culminated Sunday with an award ceremony where winners were announced for prizes in categories such as best actor, film, director and screenplay.

”Saudi Vellakka” won the Best Film award at the 2023 edition of the NYIFF, while Dhaware received the Best Director award for his critically acclaimed film ”Three of Us” starring Shah, Ahlawat and Swanand Kirkire.

Shah and Ahlawat won the Best Actress and Best Actor awards for ”Three of Us”, which was the opening film at the festival. Deepti Naval and Kalki Koechlin-starrer ”Goldfish” was the film extravaganza’s closing title.

”Follower” received the Best Screenplay award, ”To Kill a Tiger” won the Best Documentary (Short & Feature) and ”Birah” won the Best Short (Narrative) award while Leslie Shampaine received the prestigious Best Documentary by a Woman award for ”Call Me Dancer”.

”Footprints On Water”, starring Adil Hussain, won the prestigious title of Best Debut Film at NYIFF, as acclaimed by the Film Critics Circle of India.

The highlight of this year’s festival, considered North America’s longest running and most prestigious Indian film festival, included a special New York screening of Rahul Chittella’s critically praised film ”Gulmohar” starring cinema veterans Sharmila Tagore and Amol Palekar, and acclaimed actors Manoj Bajpayee and Simran.

Following the special screening of ”Gulmohar” to a packed house, NYIFF Festival Director Aseem Chhabra moderated a Q&A session with the film’s team including Tagore, Bajpayee, actor Suraj Sharma, Chittella and cinematographer Eeshit Narain.

Ahead of the festival, Chhabra had said that this year’s edition of the gala, returning to a physical format after going virtual due to the pandemic, is a celebration of new Indian cinema.

”The mission of NYIFF has and will always be to elevate the very best filmmakers and storytellers featuring India and its culture. We aim to truly underscore the NYIFF commitment to diversity and cultural representation in film,” he had said.

Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC) Vice Chairman Rakesh Kaul has said that the festival promises to offer a fresh perspective on Indian cinema, with many of the films tackling complex social issues with nuance and sensitivity.

”This year’s festival will also highlight the work of several emerging and established female filmmakers, who are pushing the boundaries of Indian cinema and redefining the role of women in the industry,” Kaul added.

Executive Director of Indo-American Arts Council, the organisation that presents the film festival, Suman Gollamudi has said that as the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in celebrated May, the festival provides an ideal opportunity for audiences to ”experience the best of Indian cinema and gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of AAPI communities and appreciate the unique perspectives that they bring to the world of cinema.” This year, the festival featured films in ten languages spoken across India: Bengali, English, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Nagpuri, Punjabi, Tamil.

Dr Nirmal Mattoo, Chairman of the Indo-American Arts Council, said NYIFF is a must-watch event for anyone interested in Indian cinema and its growing impact on global cinema.

”It offers a unique opportunity to explore and appreciate the diverse cinematic voices emerging from India today,” said Mattoo.